September is Drug-Free Pain Management Awareness Month

You might wonder why, with 130 Americans dying every day from opioid overdoses, F4CP even needs to raise awareness about available drug-free pain management. Then, among all the statistics pouring out, comes one pointing out that less than 20 percent of the public consider chronic pain a major health problem.

Chronic pain affects more people than diabetes, cancer and heart disease combined, according to the PAINS Project. While it might be easy to dismiss the overdoses as an urban problem confined to junkies in dark alleys, the truth paints a far different picture. For starters, 80 percent of heroin addicts began with prescription painkillers, reported the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Even more telling, 68 percent of the 70,200 overdose deaths in 2017 involved prescription or illicit opioids. Prince and Tom Petty put a public face to the epidemic, but it reaches much deeper, from those struggling with chronic pain to teens raiding their family’s medicine chest and unborn babies who have no choice in sharing their pregnant mothers’ addictions.

But, as the 2017 Gallup-Palmer College of Chiropractic annual report discovered, 78 percent of Americans prefer to try other ways of dealing with their chronic pain before filling a prescription. And a growing number of groups, including the American College of Physicians, have called for drug- and surgery-free chiropractic care as a first line defense in fighting back pain.

Statistics, most recently a study involving active-duty military personnel, back up their support. The findings, reported by JAMA in 2018, found that chiropractic care, when added to standard care, brought moderate short-term improvements.

It’s a finding mirrored in other statistics. Ninety-five percent of Americans who sought chiropractic care in the past year said it was effective, according to the 2017 Gallup-Palmer College report, and 97 percent of them said they would see a doctor of chiropractic again if the pain returned.

Then there are public accounts, such as Ret. Army Staff Sgt. Shilo Harris, who was seriously injured in Iraq when his Humvee hit an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). Once addicted to his prescription painkillers, he now says his doctor of chiropractic “saved my life.”

How does it relieve the pain? According to Harvard Health, the spinal manipulation relieves the pain and improves the body’s functions, helping it to heal itself. Doctors of chiropractic often include physical activity, nutrition and other lifestyle changes in their treatment plans. And in talking with doctors of chiropractic, we often find that it was their own positive experience in receiving chiropractic care that prompted them to become a DC themselves.

If you see one of our new billboards around the country, you’ll see our simple message that says, “Back pain? See a chiropractor.”

Now you know why.

Protect your back while you exercise

More than 80% of Americans will experience back pain at some time. What can you do to protect yourself from back pain? Exercise! Physical fitness is one of the best ways to protect your back and overall health. Focus on your core and back muscles to keep your spine healthy and active.

Are you afraid to exercise because you might hurt your back? Don’t let this fear hold you back. With the proper precautions, you can stay physically active even with back issues. Try these tips:

  • Talk to your doctor of chiropractic. A doctor of chiropractic earns a minimum of seven years of higher-level education. They are trained to understand your spinal health and help you feel your best. They can recommend stretches and exercises as well as regular adjustments to keep your back healthy.
  • Stretch your hamstrings. Tight hamstrings can cause back pain. If you focus on simple stretches to loosen up these muscles, your back will thank you.
  • Proper posture. Bad posture throws off your entire neuro-musculoskeletal system. Your doctor of chiropractic can help your correct positions that may be affecting your athletic performance or causing injury.
  • Lifting wrong: Straining your back muscles while lifting weights or other objects can cause injury. Your back muscles need to be supported by your leg muscles when lifting weights. Bend at the knee, and lift slow with a straight back to protect yourself. Consult a personal trainer or weightlifting coach if you are worried about your form.
  •  Listen to your body. Your body changes as you age and grow, and that affects your athletic performance. A 40-year-old man can’t do the same things he did as a teenage athlete. Know your limits and be smart while playing sports.

Physical activity is essential for your overall health. Don’t let back pain stop you from doing the activities you enjoy. Be smart and safe while exercising and you’ll enjoy years of fun physical activities.

Ten Reasons You Need To Fix Your Posture

Ten Reasons You Need To Fix Your Posture

By Dr. Sherry McAllister, executive vice president, Foundation for Chiropractic Progress

Have you ever watched a toddler sit cross-legged? They sit with their backs straight, and it feels natural to them. Most adults don’t follow the example of young children. We hunch while we walk, slump at our desks and crane our necks forward staring at our phones. This poor posture can hurt our health. These ten reasons are why you need to start fixing your poor posture today:

    1. It can cause tension headaches. Leaning forward with your head down and your neck slumped will strain your back and neck muscles. This tension can cause headaches, especially at the end of the day.
    2. It makes you tired. Slouching puts pressure on your lungs, so you aren’t able to breathe as deeply. The less oxygen you get into your body, the more tired and fatigued you will start to feel.
    3. It can make your gastrointestinal reflux worse. Your stomach and organs are all under pressure when you are leaning forward. This pressure can make your digestive system very unhappy, especially if you are already prone to digestive issues.
    4. It causes back pain. The strain of poor posture puts your spine out of alignment which can cause back and muscle pain. Your doctor of chiropractic can provide regular adjustments to realign your spine. Ask for help on correcting your posture, too.
    5. It increases your risk of cardiovascular disease. Poor posture can cause blood vessel constriction leading to blood clots and vein disorders. All of these issues can eventually turn into cardiovascular disease.
    6. It can cause pinched nerves. Have you ever pinched a nerve? It hurts. It can happen in any part of your body, and it can be difficult to relieve the pain. Chiropractic adjustments can help.
    7. It can increase knee pain. The misalignment of the spine that occurs from poor posture puts more pressure on your joints, especially your knees. If you have arthritis of the knee, it will gradually get worse over time. Your doctor of chiropractic can help to fix your alignment and relieve some of the pressure from your knees.
    8. It can make ruin your mood. 2014 Health Psychology report found that people who sat upright reported higher self-esteem, alertness, better mood and felt less fear. Sit up straight, and you’ll feel a little better.
    9. It can wreck your bite. Poor spinal alignment can misalign your jaw joints. This can change the way you bite down. It can cause jaw pain, teeth issues or temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ).
    10. It can affect your sexual function. Poor posture, while you are sitting, shortens and tightens your pelvic floor muscles. When these muscles start to get weak, it can affect your sexual performance and enjoyment.

These are just a few of the side effects of poor posture. Instead of dealing with any of these issues, see your doctor of chiropractic instead. He or she can help keep your spine healthy with regular adjustments. As you progress in your treatment, you can correct bad posture and the effects it may have on your overall health. Sit, stand and walk straight to feel healthier!

Becoming a Doctor of Chiropractic

Becoming a Doctor of Chiropractic

by Sherry McAllister, DC, executive vice president, Foundation for Chiropractic Progress

Maybe you’re interested in becoming a doctor of chiropractic (DC). Maybe you’re wondering what kind of training your own DC has been through. We can help with some details.

When you go to your chiropractor for care, you’re seeing a practitioner with a Doctor of Chiropractic degree. They receive this degree from a nationally accredited chiropractic school. Many chiropractic programs require an undergraduate degree for entry, but that can vary from school to school. At minimum, 90 hours of college coursework prerequisites are necessary before entering a chiropractic school. Most applicants already possess a B.S. degree.

While enrolled in the program, students will take courses similar to those attending medical school. Anatomy, physiology, pathology, biology, chemistry are part of the curriculum, as well as nutrition, rehabilitation and public health. A large portion of their schooling is spent in clinical training, giving them countless hours of experience with patient care before even graduating. When combined, time in clinical training, classroom settings and lab experiences totals over 4,200 hours.

Once the program is complete, graduates are required to pass an exam governed by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners. Each state also issues licenses for their practitioners. Maintaining a license is contingent on continued education and training throughout the entire course of a chiropractor’s career.

The training to become a doctor of chiropractic is challenging and stringent. If you’re considering a career in the chiropractic field, you will work hard but be rewarded with a degree that can help people manage their health issues in a drug-free manner. Ask your own chiropractor about their experience! 

A good stretch

A good stretch will do you (and your spine) good

by Sherry McAllister, DC, executive vice president, Foundation for Chiropractic Progress

Chiropractic care is one of the best things that you can do for your body and overall health. Your doctor of chiropractic is interested in helping your body stay in balance through non-invasive measures like spinal adjustments. He or she may offer other advice to help keep you on the right track. Enter dynamic stretching.

There’s something about maintaining a regular stretching routine that goes hand in hand with regular chiropractic care. Here’s why:

Maybe you’re the type who doesn’t stretch at all or maybe you already take 5 minutes for a quick warm-up before a workout. Regardless, it’s time you learned about dynamic stretches, which use more of the body and better prepare muscles and joints.

Static, the opposite, means holding a position for a period of time with lesser challenge to the body. These stretches can actually inhibit the muscles’ firing ability during exercise. Think of the kinds of stretches you learned in gym class growing up.

Dynamic stretches are controlled movements that warm up your body gently. These do not involve jerky motions but rather smooth swinging moves using momentum to increase range of motion. Picture a swimmer behind the blocks, getting ready for a race. She circles her arms around in different directions then pulls one knee at a time to her body. Or think of a runner lunging from side to side and then swinging his legs forward and back. These are all great dynamic stretching examples. There are lots of other routines to more effectively get your entire body ready for physical activity.

Most people stretch to warm up or to ready their muscles. But while static stretching may loosen your muscles to an extent, they aren’t actually warmed and ready to go. A more dynamic stretch can target specific areas of the body, depending on the muscles that are used. By getting your body ready for the task ahead, your range of motion will be improved, which in turn gives you a better quality workout. The muscles as well as joints are warmed and prepared, reducing risk of injury and increasing overall flexibility.

 

Ask your doctor of chiropractic about dynamic stretching. It’s one of the best things you can do to prepare your body for exercise. Your spine will thank you, too!

Let’s talk feet!

For the most part, our feet happily do their job each day, absorbing pressure five times our body weight as if it were nothing.

We also know when something like an annoying stubbed toe comes up, we realize how much we really do depend on them keeping us mobile. But there is more riding on those durable soles. Our feet – and even more specifically, the footwear we force them into – affect the all-important posture that keeps us pain-free. (And we’re not just talking about pinched toes!)

So if you want to avoid lower back pain – and keep that satisfying sense of well-being after visiting your doctor of chiropractic – you might want to weed these shoes out of your closet.

• Open-back sandals and flip-flops in particular make us feel free, or at least a few steps away from the beach. We are seeing them more often, even in professional settings. But they aren’t doing you any favors! Because they have no structure – think of toes used as little claws to keep them on – you’re forced to use other tendons and muscles to keep you going. And that does not provide the stability to keep you standing tall and free of back pain. Studies prove it; admit it and scrap the strappy footwear.

• You know high heels are taboo. When the heels are two inches or higher, you are pitched forward, affecting the spine, hips, knees, ankles and feet. Even worse, if you are a chronic wearer, reversing the damage isn’t as easy as changing your shoes. Your calf muscles become cramped and bulge as they adjust to keeping your body in balance. Don’t head down that slippery slope.

• And the answer isn’t flats. Again, a flat shoe offers no arch support, leading to a whole new set of woes. Anything that forces you to adjust your gait to stay in balance is going to affect your posture … and eventually your back.

• Been there already? Pitch the worn shoes that slip you into that familiar gait. It is time to give your feet some TLC with features that pamper your posture.

• So where does that leave us? They exist, but it is going to take time to adjust. Look for shoes that fit well with room for your toes. You want good arch support and an inclined sole. And be sure to do some stretching exercises, undoing the damage already done.

Your back will thank you, your feet will throw a party and you will make your doctor of chiropractic very happy. And, as always, the others are fine in moderation, like a special night out. But just watch how quickly you are ready to get out of them at the end of the night. That says it all!

Fighting cabin fever

Fighting cabin fever

We’re in the home stretch now, the holiday is behind us as we work our way through the remnants of winter. Just thinking about seeing those first crocuses poking through the ground warms the heart.

But chances are most of us aren’t thinking about spring right now. We’re locked in a bad case of cabin fever. There is a reason why February, only 28 days long unless Leap Year adds one, feels like it will never end.

Compounding things is the natural letdown that follows weeks of festivities. Is it any wonder we feel like crawling under a rock until the sun comes back out? There is even a name for it – seasonal affective disorder – for those hit the hardest.

Fortunately, as your doctor of chiropractic can tell you, there are ways to turn it around, though it will mean fighting the season’s natural inclinations. No more coming home from eight hours behind the desk to spend the next five wrapped in a blanket in front of the television. It will be well worth the effort!

Stay active

The outcome of a sedentary lifestyle is well-documented, affecting everything from mobility and balance to risk of depression. What many don’t realize is that it doesn’t take daily trips to the gym to change things around. Start by setting a timer at work and taking a few minutes each hour to walk around. In the morning or later in the day, look up the myriad of stretching routines online and get things moving. Soon, you may find yourself naturally taking the stairs, getting out more and maybe even heading for the gym. Bring on the endorphins!

Eat smart

Adding more anti-inflammatory foods to your diet – and removing inflammatory ones like sugar and processed foods – is good for easing the joint pain that normally comes with colder temperatures. But a recent study showed that it can also decrease your risk of depression by 30 percent. That Mediterranean spread is starting to look tastier, isn’t it?

Try a change of scenery

Cruising around the Bahamas right now would probably cheer anyone up. But any change in routine can freshen your day. Take a new route to work. Plan a weekend getaway, checking into a hotel with a pool, hot tub and complimentary breakfast. Take the kids to an escape room and spend an hour trying to break free. Maybe you’ll learn something in the process!

Visit your doctor of chiropractic

A body in balance equips you to make the most of your lifestyle changes. And staying active, eating better and getting a good night’s sleep helps your body stay in alignment, making it a win-win situation all around. An added bonus: Your doctor of chiropractic is trained in all of the above and can come up with a plan that works for you.

And consider this: You are going to be in great shape to enjoy spring when it finally gets here!

Oh my aching back

Oh, my aching back!

While people are discovering the many ways chiropractic care enhances well-being, doctors of chiropractic are commonly associated with a sore back. It doesn’t matter that modern chiropractic was born in 1895 when D.D. Palmer restored a janitor’s hearing with a spinal adjustment.

Back pain, and low back pain in particular, soon stole the stage with its effectiveness in relieving the often-crippling symptoms. With good reason, it seems. In the past year alone, according to the 2018 Gallup-Palmer College of Chiropractic study, “Managing Neck and Back Pain in America,” 25 percent of Americans sought professional health-care in treating their neck and back pain. And nearly two-thirds of us will experience severe enough pain to seek care in our lifetimes.

That is why the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress has designated low back pain as its focus in December. It is an issue escalated by the opioid epidemic as people want options to the prescription painkillers that often lead to addiction, abuse and overdose. Multidisciplinary health care is emerging, with medical organizations such as the American College of Physicians encouraging people to try chiropractic care before taking opioids or considering surgery. Americans have strong opinions of their own as well, as seen in the recent Gallup-Palmer College of Chiropractic study.

One in four – 28 percent – prefer drug- and surgery-free treatment, though eight out of 10 – 79 percent – want options. And one in five of those with significant back and neck pain take prescription painkillers. Medical physicians and doctors of chiropractic are the top choices – 62 and 53 percent, respectively – the latter chosen because they provided the most effective treatment, the study said.

Americans’ trust is well placed. According to a 2018 study of active-duty military personnel, participants experienced fewer back problems when treated with chiropractic and medical care. As Christine Goetz, who led the research, has noted, “This study provided the strongest evidence to date that chiropractic is safe, that it’s effective and that it can be integrated into a multidisciplinary health care setting.”

Americans also try to deal with pain on their own, applying heat or ice, practicing yoga, getting a massage or using over-the-counter pain relievers, which can also be risky when overused.

And there are effective actions you can take to complement your chiropractic care:

• Make lifestyle changes now that prevent back and neck pain. Good posture is a good place to start. Avoid becoming sedentary—breaking away from the desk for stretches and regular exercise. Drink plenty of water, and while you are at it, watch what you eat as well. Your doctor of chiropractic can suggest additional measures you can take specific to your situation.

• Seek treatment at the first sign of back pain. Watch for stiffness or decreased range of motion in the neck, a knot in the back muscle, loss of bladder or bowel control, loss of balance or coordination, muscle weakness or numbness and tingling in your extremities. While they may not seem related to the back, they often originate from the spine … your doctor of chiropractic’s area of expertise!

• Keep your healthcare professionals informed on what you are experiencing and what other treatments or prescriptions you are receiving. We are at the crossroads in addressing an issue dating back to the beginning of time. And recent studies – along with dialogues scheduled own the road – indicate that we are on the same page in pursuing relief.

woman with back pain

Barriers to Care: Opioids Are Cheap and Easy

Barriers to Care: Opioids Are Cheap and Easy
New research on coverage policies confirm what my patients and I have known for years

By Sherry McAllister, DC

A recent study published in JAMA Open Network seems to confirm what I and my patients have known for years: health insurers are steering their members toward pharmacological, often opioid-based, management for chronic pain.

The study, “Coverage of Nonpharmacologic Treatments for Low Back Pain Among U.S. Public and Private Insurers,” shows that payer-imposed barriers to care such as $60 copays, visit limits and onerous medical necessity determinations, are disincentivizing their members away from   nonpharmacologic care, even though the care is widely covered. This is despite the substantial evidence supporting the effectiveness of chiropractic care and physical and occupational therapy for chronic pain. Meanwhile, according to an associated commentary in the publication, Christine M. Goertz, DC, Ph.D. and Steven Z. George, PT, Ph.D., cite research that the preferred generic opioid prescriptions cost members only $10 a month.

To that avail, I have a patient with chronic uncomplicated low back pain who finds great relief with chiropractic. Unfortunately, this patient can only receive care if all the allotted paperwork, authorization and deductible has been met. Problematic is that this patient typically needs one treatment every few months to contain her discomfort. This makes managing chronic pain extremely difficult, as many insurance companies allocate payments based on an acute phase patient, ultimately leaving the patient and doctor frustrated by the paperwork and high out-of-pocket costs. This is just one example of many I could share regarding the hurdles both parties are facing.

In light of the nation’s opioid epidemic, as recommended by the CDC, FDA and IOM, nonpharmacological clinical pathways need to be the first-line approach for chronic pain. However, study lead author James Heyward, MPH, a research data analyst at the Johns Hopkins Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness, finds little collaboration within these health plans to prioritize evidence-based, nonpharmacologic care protocols after interviewing 43 medical and pharmacy health plan executives.

From the study:

“Overall, informants indicated a low level of integration between coverage decision making for nonpharmacologic and pharmacologic therapies, such as through the use of step therapy requirements that encourage use of physical therapy before initiation of long-acting or extended-release opioids.”

In my own practice, I have found that many of my patients’ primary care physicians opt for pharmacologic care options as a first choice to manage pain rather than a nonpharmacological approach simply because they are not familiar with the options. One of my patients mentioned that her primary care physician knew very little about chiropractic and instead gave her a number of reasons why taking a medication would be just as good of a choice to manage pain instead of opting for a drug-free approach. The primary care physician went as far as to say that my patient could just simply come back in when she needed a refill. If the primary care provider lacks the understanding, then the patient cannot be fully informed of the safe, effective, drug-free options that are available, which perpetuates the barriers to care and further fuels the reliance on prescription medications.

Steps to reverse the trend

While there are multiple drivers behind the country’s opioid public health crisis, this study indicates that health plans can take steps to help reverse the course. They include:

1.Copay reduction for evidence-based and effective interventions such as chiropractic care and physical and occupational therapy

2.Decrease unnecessary administrative obstacles such as medical necessity reviews for conservative, cost-effective care

3.Reconsider limitations on number of visits to encourage members to make such care part of their long-term, chronic pain management strategy, preventing the need for pharmacologic interventions

4.Increase collaboration and coordination between medical and pharmacy health plan leaders to help incentivize members to pursue nonpharmacologic interventions for chronic pain

5.The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should seek input from the entire spectrum of healthcare providers and professionals, including doctors of chiropractic and physical and occupational therapists, as they design policies and guidelines for the newly passed “Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act

The bottom line is patients deserve and desire drug-free clinical pathways. A recent Gallup-Palmer College of Chiropractic survey report showed 79 percent of Americans want to explore all nonpharmacological treatments for pain before considering an opioid. It is up to all stakeholders, including physicians and health plans, to help remove barriers to evidence-based, effective and preferred therapies for chronic pain.

About the author:

Sherry McAllister, DC, is executive vice president of the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress and Foundation for Chiropractic Education. A not-for-profit organization, Foundation for Chiropractic Education (501c3) and the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress (501c6) provide information and education regarding the value of chiropractic care and its role in drug-free pain management

Optimize!

In a society where we’ve so long approached our health from the medical perspective of diagnosing a problem and treating it, drug- and surgery-free chiropractic care’s approach of enabling the body to operate at its maximum is a unique concept.

But when you look at chiropractic care from that angle, not waiting until low back pain or tech neck sends you to the doctor of chiropractic for relief but proactively strengthening your body’s neuro-musculoskeletal system before issues arise, you climb to a new level of well-being. And that is why the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress recognizes October as Optimizing Health the Chiropractic Way Month.

While medical care will always play an important role in your health, ideally, in working together, your doctor of chiropractic and primary care physician will strike a balance that reduces your need for reactive treatment. Sound utopian? Numerous studies show that those receiving chiropractic care use fewer pharmaceuticals, spend less time in the hospital and live independently longer.

Even more, with the positive lifestyle changes that doctors of chiropractic incorporate with spinal adjustments, patients report that they feel if their bodies are finally functioning at 100 percent. As one put it, he felt better after his visit with a doctor of chiropractic in places he never knew felt bad!

The reason is simple. Your body’s central nervous system is housed in the spine, where it transfers messages from your brain to muscles and organs throughout your body. But when something is out of alignment, the connection is interrupted, like calling on your cell phone from high in the mountains. The signal might get through but you’re going to spend a lot of time asking, “Can you hear me now?”

By developing a better relationship between structure and function, your doctor of chiropractic’s hands-on therapy triggers your body’s innate capacity to heal itself.

It doesn’t stop there, either. Working hand in hand with your doctor of chiropractic, you can take steps to prevent future problems and optimize the benefits of your recent chiropractic care. Maintain good posture, preventing your spine from slipping back into its familiar misalignment. Get a good night’s sleep, which relieves the stress on your spine and joints and gives your body time to recoup.

Develop an exercise routine, taking time to walk around during the work day and learning to stretch at your desk while anchored to a screen. Talk to your doctor of chiropractic about proper nutrition; it really makes a difference!

And pamper yourself on occasion, whether going in for a massage or taking a little time, with lights down low, to listen to some soft music and restore the soul.

Finally, make an appointment now for an annual check-up with your doctor of chiropractic. Just as your dentist regularly cleans your teeth and looks for cavities, your DC can tell if an adjustment is needed, even before symptoms surface.

Are you optimizing your healthcare options? October is a good place to start … see what chiropractic care can do for you!